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Athletics - 05. March 2011.

Purdue races to senior title at the McCain UK Cross Challenge

Charlotte Purdue (coach: Mick Woods) - in an absolutely dominant display of front running reminiscent of her European Junior Cross Country Championships victory in December - recorded yet another outstanding performance with her first domestic senior cross country title in the McCain UK Cross Challenge Final and World Cross Trials at Cofton Park, Birmingham, today (Saturday 5 March).

The diminutive Aldershot athlete, running for Hampshire, was joined by all of the leading contenders throughout the early stages of the race including Gemma Steel (coach: Roy Stowell), Sonia Samuels (coach: George Gandy), Julia Bleasdale, Hatti Dean (coach: Bud Baldaro), Naomi Taschimowitz (coach: Charlotte Fisher) and Stevie Stockton (coach: George Gandy), however, the relatively big pack was reduced to three as Purdue soon took the lead with only Dean and Bleasdale for company.

As they moved into the final 3km of the 8km course, Taschimowitz had moved into third at the expense of Bleasdale who had gone off hard in the early stages was starting to pay the price, but Purdue was clearly benefiting from her steady start and was growing stronger with every stride. As her lead increased to 12 seconds on the long downhill sweep with 2km to go, there was no doubt she would absolutely destroy the field.

In the end, she won by 30 seconds in 27:29, not only taking individual gold but also leading Hampshire to the UK Inter Counties title, and in doing so she became the youngest winner of the senior title in 20 years. "I felt so strong in the BUCS cross country but I didn't feel so good at the National, I just didn't feel myself," she admitted of her most recent performances, "but I really wanted to dominate today..." and she did, with Dean, representing Yorkshire, second in 27:59 and Taschimowitz (Avon & Somerset) in third with one of the best runs of her career to date (28:02).

"I wanted to win and I wouldn't have been happy with anything else," she continued. "I knew Hatti would be strong but I really missed Steph (her team mate Stephanie Twell) out there. I spoke to her before the race and I really hope that we can race together next year; with the exception of the road relays we've never had the chance to run together in a team event.

"I can't wait for the World Cross now - I want to be the first non-African finisher."

The junior races, also World Cross Country Trial events, went to form as Mick Woods-coached Emelia Gorecka won in style.
Jenny Walsh (coach: Deborah Rowlands) took the talented field by surprise when she raced into an early lead but it was inevitable that she'd be run down by the chasing pack led by defending champion Gorecka and backed up by fellow AFD athletes Louise Small (Hampshire) and Georgia Peel (Surrey) plus Cornwall's Annabel Gummow (coach: Chris Wooldridge), amongst others.

With 2km to go there was absolutely no doubt about it however, and Gorecka had soon moved clear with almost seven seconds on second-placed Gummow as they moved into the final loop, eventually taking victory and leading Surrey to the overall team title with four athletes inside the top ten.

"It was an awesome course and I ran a similar race to last year," said Gorecka, who admitted she wasn't concerned by the early break from Walsh. "I'd always planned to run the first lap steadily but I started to pull away without really meaning to. I felt good, so I thought I'd just get down with it and motor on.

"I train with these girls all the time so it was good to be running alongside them; it's familiar and I know how to race them."

Gummow finished second in 20:42 with Small, who had been struggling with a cold all week, taking third (20:57).

In the non-Trial races, under-17 Jessica Judd (coach: Jeremy Freeman), winner in Birmingham 12 months ago and second in the English National cross country in February, continued her great run of form with a brilliant display of front running to retain her title and record one of the most impressive performances of the day; she took victory for Essex in 18:27, almost one minute clear of runner-up Alice Wright (Worcestershire) over the 5k course, but Worcestershire held out for the team title.

Mark Shaw led the North East to the UK Inter Counties team title with individual victory in the men's under-17 6k race in 19:00 ahead of Bradley Goater (Middlesex) in second (19:13).

Under-15 favourite Adam Howard (Greater Manchester), the English National champion, took the boys age-group title - and with it the McCain UK Cross Challenge Series overall prize - with victory over 4.5km in 14:58 while Natalia Hackett of Yorkshire won the girls' 4km race in 15:33. The team titles went to Hampshire and Surrey respectively.

And further highlighting the strength and depth of Hampshire across all age groups, George Butler led the under-13 boys' team to the UK Inter Counties title with victory in the 3km race (10:23) while defending champion Katie Rowe, the 2010 McCain UK Cross Challenge overall winner, took the girls' individual title and spearheaded the Hampshire team challenge when racing to gold in 11:07.

Full results are on the McCain UK Cross Challenge <http://uka.org.uk/competitions/mccain-uk-cross-challenge/> section of the UKA website.

The Aviva GB&NI team for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Punta Umbria, Spain, will be selected on Monday 7 March.
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